Last year, our Global Education and Services department worked with 400 immigrant and refugee students from 50 countries, primarily providing English Language Learning (or ELL). A very interesting convergence of needs has emerged, and thanks to our creative and responsive staff, we’re beginning a new project that’s been dubbed the “New Americans Project.” Many of these students have a desire to work in our local economy upon acquiring the necessary language skills, but often don’t have the resources to pursue a technical education program. On the other hand, we hear from employers daily about their needs for skilled workers.
This project is getting its start in the healthcare sector where four area employers, all with significant needs for Certified Nursing Assistants, are sponsoring 14 students by way of providing scholarships in this customized program. In addition to completing the CNA training, these students will also study English terminology for healthcare and employability skills. The scholarship will cover a student’s tuition, textbooks, uniform, materials, the cost of the state certification exam, required background check, and necessary health work such as immunizations. In return, the student enters an agreement with the sponsoring employer to work for them after graduation. Employers can expect a very good return on their investment—if the participant works for the employer for one year, the investment amounts to $1.16 per hour; if two years, only $.58 per hour in the development of its new employee. It’s a particularly reasonable investment given the typical cost of recruiting, training, and staffing the uncovered shifts of CNAs.
Students need to demonstrate the ability to work in the U.S., pass the background check, find access to reliable transportation, commit to attending all classes, and follow through in working for the sponsoring employer upon completion of the program. This first group will be selected to begin the program in the next few months and complete sometime next summer.
Everyone wins in this sponsorship model—it’s a unique way for employers to build their workforce, these new Americans have real opportunity for getting started in careers that will help sustain their families, and our communities always win when individuals are productively contributing and employers have the workers they need. We’d like to explore replicating this sponsorship model in other sectors and with many more than 14 immigrant and refugee students. What other sectors and employers should we be engaging to consider a model such as this?